I knew that I was less fit than I would have liked for the marathon I ran today, but I decided to run it anyway -- not to prove my theory right, but to actually see where I was mentally and physically in the middle of a stretch where I have not trained as much as I would like. When I woke in the morning I felt a bit nauseous and had a bit of a headache, two things that I'm not troubled by very often. I slowly found myself plodding into my warm up routine, hesitant for some reason. The nearest tangible excuse was the cold of my apartment, which was prompting me to put on a few more layers or get back under the covers. It was, after all, 5:15 am.
I shook the reluctance off and got myself moving. As I drank my routine milk and followed it up with a sort drink I took note that the twingey left Achilles that needs a bit of warming up, was loose on this particular morning.
I started conservatively and did not push myself too hard to get out of the scrums of runners that might have been holding me back. I was very conscious early on, however, that I did not have the speed in my legs to reel people in and pass them the way I had in other race 2 or 3 years ago. Part of it was the lack of speed training throughout the year, but in the moment I didn't trouble myself with gaps in preparation. I was going to see where I was. That was the plan and the goal.
There were times when the body showed promise and strength, but as the morning progressed, I wore down more quickly that I would have liked. The first 7K of the race were done in about 37 minutes. Maintaining that pace throughout the morning would have been spectacular but in the late morning as the heat escalated on the unshaded final leg of the race I surrendered a bit more speed as the morning wore on. In retrospect, if I can use that would 8 hours after the fact, I knew the body wasn't ready. Friends were confident that a much faster race was possible, but I knew my body well enough. I finished in 3:53, 14 minutes off the time I ran two years earlier on a hillier route for this race. I had a hunch. Actually I knew my body well enough. Not enough training, a less than ideal diet and may be just enough extra pounds to slow me down.
The mind though, that was a different story. During that race two years ago, despite the pace I ran, was a tougher battle and a less pleasant experience. Throughout the second half of that race in particular, I struggled with my expectations and reached a point where, within a kilometre of my door, I was ready to throw it in and call it a day. During this race, despite the disappointment of seeing my fitness exposed throughout the morning, I kept running throughout, save a brief break to deal with pain in my shoulders that I had not experienced during previous races. Every once in a while I pondered just walking it in, but I ran straight through and as the last kilometre appeared I actually found enough energy to pass a few fellow runners.
A few hours after the race I resumed reading a book that outlined 7 stages of processes, which included: Discovery and Encounter; Passion and Commitment; Frustration; and Retreat and Withdrawal. As I reviewed those stages, Frustration was familiar, but I was recalling it from May 2017 rather than today. At the moment I am probably in the stage of Retreat and Withdrawal. The question is whether it is a stage that has been underway for a few hours or a few months. If I have discerned the book's account of Retreat accurately, then pondering time on a yoga mat... okay committing to time on the mat is a sign that this stage will be constructive.
The most comforting thing today, however, is the reassurance that my head kept me moving rather than capsized me with the doubts and the broken record that played during this race 2 years ago. I'm not sure if it was a consequence of my mental outlook today or not, but after finishing the race, a few of the volunteers told me - despite my medal and race bib - that I looked like I did not run the race. One even mused about whether or not I was eligible of a race recovery nibble given the condition I appeared to be in. The body ached in new places today, but I looked fresh. If that was a reflection of the mental ease I managed today, good.
Now give me my waffle!